And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by"
Don Henley, "The End of Innocence"
Oh those days will remain long and rolling under blue skies if I have anything to say about it, and as it turns out, I do.
Because Patience is and always will be Our Very First Baby Precious Angel Love of Our Life, she is going to have to put up with a lot of parental freak outs---an unduly unfair number above and beyond what her sister will experience.
On the flip side, Persistence will have an unduly unfair number of parental exasperations above and beyond what her sister will experience.
So it all balances out.
Last Thursday Patience got to experience yet another parental freak out, although she had no idea her father and I were totally melting down. We have mastered the art of hiding it well.
But I must say...her father melted down WAY worse than me, for the record. He melted down so badly he took off a day from work and did not go into the office. In fact, I only saw him texting his office four times total the entire day. And he didn't even take or make a single phone call
That, my friends, is one freaked out dad. He couldn't even stick in his workaholic gear.
What happened last Thursday?
Patience had her very first field trip. On a bus.
This of course necessitated massive parental tactical planning and preparation, and a few antianxiety homeopathic remedies (Bach's Rescue Remedy fits easily into pockets, for what it's worth.)
The day before: I stopped Patience's best friend's mom at school. "Are you going tomorrow?"
"Oh my God of course!" she said.
The night before: I slept poorly, wondering if, in the end, I could put Patience on that bus. I don't know that driver. There are no seatbelts. Buses have accidents. Patience is precious. But it was important to her and she was giddy with excitement about riding the bus. So I accepted as best I could that she'd ride the bus. With her friends. And without seatbelts. I kept my panic to myself and even managed to channel it into fake excitement. This involved hopping in a circle with Patience in the afternoon. It was a good way to explain my rapid breathing.
The morning of: Over breakfast I drilled Patience over and over, "You stay in your seat, bottom down, no wiggling, no sliding off the seat, bottom down, back against the seat, no standing up, no moving around. Promise?" I may have gotten a little shrill because Patience stared at me like I'd lost my mind, but solemnly swore to be very safe.
When I got to school, I was relieved to see that the vast majority of other parents were there too. We were practically man-on-man instead of zone we had so many parent volunteers. The teacher was very relaxed and pulled-together. But the parents all got sort of strained looks when we understood we'd be responsible for someone else's precious child.
Patience's buddy---the someone else's precious child we were responsible for keeping safe and okay; in other words, our job was to ensure that she was not ruined in any way, shape or form and returned home in better condition than when she left---was an adorable big-eyed little girl with black corkscrew curl ponytails.
All the parents waved gaily to the children as they filed to the buses, and then we stood there, a little frozen, or lost, or stuck.
After a minute, a few people got moving. Two other moms from the class walked over to me and Jon, and Patience's best friend's mom, and said, "Come on, ride with us, let's save on gas and cars."
We said thanks and piled in. That mom was one hot driver. We tailed the buses, staying in back, driving alongside, peering into the bus to see where the kids were, how they were doing and if they okay.
We all jokingly shared laughable versions of ourselves and our anxiety.
The driver trumped us all, though, when she confessed, "This is the first time I've left my baby. Ever." I pictured her round little infant, her kindergartner's little brother.
"Ohhhhhh," we all murmured sympathetically.
"He's still nursing," she added, "Often. And he won't take a bottle."
"OOOOOHHHHHH," we all said with even more sympathy. Then we sat silent, the weight of needing to say something comforting heavy on our heads.
"You'll get through this," the more experienced mom said.
The real adventure began when we reached the field trip destination: Moody Gardens in Galveston, a really neat park a little south of our town. It has a beach, an aquarium, a rain forest, and more. We were only visiting the two pyramids: the aquarium and rain forest.
We met the kids as they got off the buses and quickly found Patience and her Pal. Patience was excited to have her parents there, and was ecstatic about the adventure ahead.
We started with the aquarium, where Patience's chatty Pal told us all about her family (don't worry, Pal's mom, I never heard a thing she said, it never happened), her house, her pool, her swimming, and more. We quickly learned that she was one of those children who liked to run from thing to thing dragging whichever one of us had her hand.
And that's when it happened.
It started with the crabs.
"Mrs. Pippert, Mrs. Pippert, what are those crabs doing," Pal asked.
I walked over to the tank and peered in. Oh. My. Stars. It's springtime. You know what was going on.
"Ummmmmm," I said, stalling, "Ummmmmm...."
"Why is that crab on that crab moving back and forth like that?" Pal asked.
Parents around me snickered and then scattered like frightened birds.
"I think he's trying to hitch a ride. Maybe he's tired of walking," I said, finally.
"Oh, okay!" Pal said, satisfied.
"Mrs. Pippert, Mrs. Pippert, what are those seals doing?"
"Frolicking in the water," I said.
"What does frolicking mean?"
"It means having a good time, but you know, I think they are wrestling, oh yes, look at that, that's what they're doing, wrestling! How fun!" I said, finding that this whole evading the truth thing got easier as I went along, "Aren't seals such good swimmers?"
And on it went, from tank, to tank, to tank.
At lunch, we ate outside in the park, by the playground. We were quickly swarmed by seagulls, who swooped more menacingly than gracefully towards us.
"Mrs. Pippert, Mrs. Pippert, what are those birds doing?" Pal asked.
I turned to look. Good GRIEF. Moody Gardens was like an animal kingdom orgy.
"Piggy back rides!" I said, brightly, "Birds just love to get piggy back rides! In fact, maybe we should call them birdie back rides!"
The kids giggled and begged to go feed their crusts to the birds.
When we all grouped back together at the visitor's center for the second half of the tour, I grabbed the teacher, "Umm, things are a little frisky with the inmates, if you know what I mean," I said, "I'm getting questions. So...just so you know, crabs and birds give piggy back rides and seals wrestle under water, okay?"
She snorted with laughter, "Good answers. Yeah, we try to keep the explanations very, very G at this age, if you know what I mean."
"I do," I nodded.
"It could be worse, you know," she said, "We could be at the zoo. Very active there this time of year."
I nodded, newly grateful for small favors.
The teacher guided us in to the rain forest exhibit.
Where more animals were feeling the season, if you know what I mean. And I think you do. Other animals were feeding more basic instincts, if you know what I mean. And I think that you do. Picture: a room full of very large snakes (in tanks, my God, in tanks! Sealed tanks!). Picture large bulges in their bodies.
Pal ran from tank to tank, her feet barely touching the ground. She paused by the boa constrictor, that appeared as long as my house.
"Mrs. Pippert, Mrs. Pippert, what is the snake doing with the cute little white bunny?"
"HOLY CRAP!" I said.
"What! What!" Pal and Patience said.
"Ummm, I mean wow, what a very long snake."
"But what is the snake doing with the bunny?" the girls persisted.
"Umm, the bunny must be his lovey. See, even snakes have lovies."
The girls swallowed that one whole.
No pun intended.
I ushered them quickly into the main part of the forest.
"Mrs. Pippert! Mrs. Pippert! Look at those parrots! Do they like to have piggy back rides too? That looks like it hurts!" Pal said.
I staggered back and fell hard against my husband, "Oh my God," I whispered to him, "Will this field trip never end?"
As with all good things, even all trying things come to an end. We watched the exhausted children climb onto the bus, and we got into the car to head back to the school.
So to recap, birds and bees may do it, but that's not what I tell someone else's precious child.
I lie like a chicken shit rug to someone else's child.
So...in case you are Pal's mom:
Birds give piggy back rides, and so do crabs. Seals wrestle, and snakes have lovies.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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